Why venture into climate justice research?
I was involved as an activist in various things down the years. I began my time with the movement against Corporate Globers in the late 90’s in solidarity with certain groups. A lot of people in that movement, Me among them, realized particularly with the shift in unilateralism in a way that movement won because that project of unifying the world in one constitution that would serve corporates was defeated. No one got what they wanted; it was a stalemate. At the time we became much more aware of climate issues through that lens of corporate power. That really kicked off from around 2005 onwards and inspired me to research in the area, so I have always done research on the areas that I have been active in and I have not stopped since then. Many dimensions of climate injustice have been highlighted through the process over the last 20 years that have taught me much more.
What has been your most memorable campaign since your journey started?
I think I became quite involved in some of the campaigns against particular mines, because those experiences materialized the situations very directly; being actually there physically is a physical manifestation of the problem and trying to stop what is going on. I can remember one particular time we were in a camp at a mine trying to stop it from opening. We walked through the night for about 10 hours and trying to keep away from the police. We dodged them through the forest and I had never walked through the night before for that amount of time. We turned up when the sun was coming up and stopped the bulldozers for about four to five hours and there were only about 10 of us. It was incredible, I think because in most part not because of the activity itself but because how it manifested so much that was wrong with the world and materialized it; which is the case with a lot of climate justice movements where we need to find meaningful material sites where people can mobilize and act. That was a very powerful moment for me.
We have green energy policies that have a lot of inconsistencies which owe to our dependency on developed nations because of desperation. What do you think is the best way out for Africa to get her energy transition under way?
I think it’s a social transformation issue. It has not been developed enough to present it as a vision to transform societies. There is a much wider agenda here, energy transition requires in many ways public action, state action and community level action that can have a huge social benefit. To build that vision is very important to show a social transition that can address social marginalization and environmental issues. Until that happens, we are not going to get a mass movement around this.
For Africa, such a transformation is desirable in itself regardless of the climate aspects; a move to decarbonized societies can have huge benefits if they are a part of an agenda towards justice, and real visions and alternatives towards people’s livelihoods.
What does something that has become a social agenda look like?
For instance, let’s take something like access to electricity. My feeling with renewable energy is moving towards virtually zero costs renewable energy once the infrastructure is in place. Imagine that everyone has access to unlimited free energy as a community. The implications of that are huge right across the board in terms of people's lives and if you link that to transport think about what could create a decarbonized renewable transport system. Social media can be at the heart of this in terms of campaigning because it is often used to create a stronger sense of identity.
Renewable energy can offer forms of employment that did not exist before. If we are able to get to a situation where energy is so cheap and widely accessible it offers a huge transformation of societies.